The most fundamental form of protesting is our vote. National, State and in particular local elections is where an eligible voter can effect change.
I attended Hephzibah Jr High School, a small community just outside of Augusta, Georgia. seventh-grade history teacher is someone I remember some 45 years later. Mr Bread was a young African-American. He had style and swagger. The curriculum he prepared for us was focused on black history. It’s what we studied the entire school year. It had quite an impact on me.
We started the year learning about the slave trade, contributions from free and slaved blacks in the various wars that shaped our country. Studied Key black leaders and events throughout history.
Nothing was more impactful on me than studying the civil rights movement. The events playing out over the past few years including the recent death of George Floyd and subsequent protests and riots bring me back to that class in 1975.
When I reflect back with a better perspective I can appreciate that Mr Beard who was a young man himself probably overcame his own hurdles. Only eleven years earlier the Civil Rights Act passed, ten years the Voting Rights Act. Three years earlier a court order was put in place by US District Judge Alexander Lawerence to bus white and black children to integrate Augusta schools. This part of history in America was pretty fresh.
The images of black and white students beaten, knocked to the ground by the pressure of a fire hose, and attacked by dogs played out on film in our class.
This past Friday’s passing of Representative John Lewis brought back the memories of Mr Beard’s class. Lewis put his life on the line to end segregation and bring a change to voting laws. He received condemnation from civil rights leaders a generation ahead of him and ridicule from those in his own generation. While Lewis was being cursed at, beaten and jailed for the cause. Malcom X was preaching a different kind of movement. A movement of retaliation and not love. "Instead of singing, we should be swinging!" was one of X's favorite sayings. But Lewis and his movement knew a better way. Lewis was not just a hero in black history but a hero in American history.
We’ve seen recently how voting in our local communities of Montrose and Delta has brought change or re-enforced the direction of their respective city councils. We’ve seen a tax increase voted in for law enforcement in Montrose and voted down in Delta. We’ve seen city council incumbents re-elected in Montrose and voted out in Delta.
Lewis often said the best form of protest was to vote. It is the most fundamental of rights. At one point he held in his hand his voter registration card after the Voting Rights Act was passed and his great-great grandfather's voter registration card when he was freed after the Civil War. A friend told him do you realize that the generations between your great grandfather and you didn't have the opportunity to vote?'' Now everyone has that right. He told Lewis you did that. Lewis wept and said, I guess it's in my DNA.
While there is talk of renaming the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma Alabama to honor John Lewis, the best and most important way to honor his memory is to vote.